After meeting Ian Campbell on the Tropical Birding stand at the 2002 British Birdwatching Fair, Glenn Hickson, Roger Stanfield and I decided to arrange a two week birding tour to the the Choco region of Ecuador. The Choco stretches from Colombia in the north to south western Ecuador and comprises of lowland rainforest in the east and Andean cloudforest in the west. The area has an incredible avian diversity and many restricted range species. With Ian's help we decided on a two centre trip to include Tandayapa Lodge www.tandayapa.com in the Andean foothills and Sacha Lodge in the Ecuadorian Amazon. www.sachalodge.com The web sites of both lodges include all access and travel details as well as bird lists etc.
When we had decided which sites we wanted to visit we talked to Ian, a co-owner of Tropical Birding www.tropicalbirding.com email firstname.lastname@example.org who was able to put together a trip that would cover all the main sites around both lodges.
While shopping around for flights we spoke to Jan Clements of Wildwings email email@example.com who informed us that they could not only book the flights but they also act as agent for Tropical Birding. This meant that we could pay in the UK rather than transferring money to an overseas bank and also get the protection of a company belonging to ABTA, IATA and ATOL.
The total cost was around £2,450 all inclusive. The only extras were for alcoholic drinks and souvenirs etc.
Tropical Birding provided Ian for the first part and Jose Llanes from our arrival at Sacha Lodge to our departure. We were lucky to have the services of Oscar Tapuy at Sacha Lodge.
Ian and Jose are expert bird finders and were great company throughout our stay.
We chose to fly with KLM. Departures from local airports were included so Roger and I flew from Humberside and Glenn flew from Heathrow to Quito via Amsterdam with brief stopovers on the island of Bonaire in the Dutch Antilles and Guayaquil in southern Ecuador. We departed the UK at 1800 on the 23rd Feb and arrived in Quito on time at 0920 on the 24th. KLM seems to give more legroom than most airlines and provided a comfortable and efficient service. Their UK site is http://www.klm.com/uk_en/index.jsp
Note that Ecuador time is 5 hours behind GMT.
On our arrival in Quito we were met by Ian and his 4x4 for the two hour journey to Tandayapa Lodge and used this vehicle for all our trips from the lodge. Tropical Birding provided all transport in and around Quito except for our trip to Pasochoa Wildlife Refuge. We hired a taxi in Quito for this trip and with a little haggling we paid US$50 for the day. We flew from Quito to Lago Agrio on an aircraft chartered by Sacha Lodge and then on by coach and motorised canoe to the lodge itself.
Tropical Birding arranged all our accommodation in the comfortable Tandayapa and Sacha Lodges and the Hostal de La Rabida in Quito. Email firstname.lastname@example.org situated at 227 y Sta Maria near the downtown area.
Rural Ecuador seems generally safe and we didn't encounter any hostility or security problems. Quito is another matter. Our hotel was kept locked and was guarded 24 hours a day by a uniformed security man wielding a pump action shotgun. We were advised not to venture out after dark. Many buildings and businesses in the city are similarly protected and for some reason the MacDonalds restaurant near our hotel had 2 armed guards! Sacha Lodge is close to the border with Columbia and had it's own team of security guards posted around the grounds.
We were completely free of tummy troubles for the whole of our stay. Mosquitoes though put in a fine performance at both of the Lodges. We all took anti malaria pills and used lots of repellent. Don't forget that Quito is at 2850m, Yanacocha is 3400m and Papallacta Pass is 4100m so you may be affected by the altitude.
Around Quito and Tandayapa we had t-shirt to sweater weather. At higher elevations such as Papallacta Pass and Yanacocha the temperature hovered around freezing for most of the day. Sacha and the rest of the lowlands had temperatures in the 80's C and hotter at times especially in the afternoon sun. It rained just about every day, sometimes heavily. My ex army poncho gave good protection and could be worn over rucksacks, cameras and bins.
The Birds of Ecuador a Field Guide, by Robert S Ridgely and Paul J Greenfield. ISBN 0-7136-6117-8. We also used the Lets Go Ecuador guide published by Macmillan.
23 Feb. Depart UK 1800
24 Feb. Early morning stop over in Guayaquil, saw several Southern Caracaras and Peruvian Meadowlarks around the airport. Arrived Quito 0920 and transferred to Tandayapa Lodge for our 7 day stay.
25 Feb. Early start to Los Bancos for Moss backed and Ochre breasted Tanager etc, the Mindo Road, upper Tandayapa road and the Lodge trails.
26 Feb. Tandayapa Trails and vicinity.
27 Feb. Upper Tandayapa road at 2100-2350m, then Lodge trails.
28 Feb. Predawn start to Pedro Vicente Maldonado. Heavy overnight rain caused several landslides making a detour necessary and an extra hours travelling.
1 Mar. Yanacocha am then Tandayapa Lodge.
2 Mar. Four Rivers am then transfer to Quito for overnight stay.
3 Mar. Calacali am for White tailed ShrikeTyrant etc then transfer to Sacha Lodge for our 6 day stay.
4 Mar. River islands then around finca area.
5 Mar. Orchid Trail then the metal tower where we had a thunderstorm with high wind and heavy rain. Several trees blown down and branches etc crashing all around us meant a hasty retreat back to the Lodge. Strangely at ground level we couldn't feel the wind at all because we were protected by the tall trees of the rainforest.
6 Mar. Providensia Trail in Yasuni National Park, Rio Shipaty and Lodge trails.
7 Mar. Canopy Tower then Lodge trails.
8 Mar. Sacha Lodge am then transfer back to Quito. Trip to Pasochoa.